In most jobs, it's unlikely your employer will ever send you home to change if you break one of the written or unwritten rules of the corporate dress code. But every day, you get a chance to make a statement about your value to the company through your choice of clothes. Moreover, salary negotiations can happen at any time. So don't get caught off guard in your old lucky sweatshirt from your college exams on the day the company decides to offer spot bonuses. Here's a list of ways to say "pay me more" - or at least avoid saying "pay me less" - with your wardrobe.
Would you ask for a raise wearing...
Shiny or see-through fabrics
Showy belt buckles
Anything dirty, stained, or torn
Shirts with offensive words or pictures
Ladies, could you keep a straight face asking for a bonus wearing...
Visible lingerie (bra straps, garter belts, etc.)
Gentlemen, how will it affect your total cash compensation if you sport...
Messy facial hair
Would you pay more for a dirty car?
Think of yourself, for the sake of illustration, in terms of a product you sell your company every year. If you want to resell the product at a higher price next year, you'll do your best to present it in good, clean working order. That includes the following.
Cleanliness - Practices vary from culture to culture, but in U.S. business it's customary to arrive at work having showered and shampooed within the previous 24 hours.
Groomed nails - Fingernails should be kept clean, short or moderate in length - and out of your mouth.
Cheerful breath - Food-related bad breath can be managed by keeping a toothbrush at work for those after-lunch meetings. Chronic bad breath is a treatable medical condition; consult your doctor if you think it's you.
Understated scent - Light, discreet perfumes and colognes are a form of personal expression and pride; but overpowering scents can detract from your more important messages about the work itself.
Resources and related reading
Letitia Baldridge - Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette
Clinton T. Greenleaf III - Attention to Detail: A Gentleman's Guide to Professional Appearance and Conduct
Judith Martin - Miss Manners Guide for the Turn of the Millennium
Peggy Post - Emily Post's Etiquette
Peggy Post and Peter Post - The Etiquette Advantage in Business